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Whitfield Starts at Safety

September 11, 1998|SCOTT HOWARD-COOPER

Coach Bob Toledo made his final lineup decision Thursday, naming junior Eric Whitfield as the starting free safety for Saturday's game against Texas.

This is not to be confused with a decision that is final. The position with the least certainty as the season begins could change a little next week (if freshman backup Jason Stephens plays better against the Longhorns than Whitfield) or change a lot. Under the latter scenario, Larry Atkins, an All-American candidate at strong safety, would move to free safety if the need is greater for him there.

"We'll find out down the line," Toledo said. "If they [Whitfield and Stephens] play well, we'll move on. If not, we'll evaluate it."

Said Whitfield of earning the starting job, thanks in large part to being more experienced than Stephens: "I'm not necessarily even thinking about that. I'm more thinking about Texas and knowing we have business that we have to take care of."

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Washington's victory over Arizona State on the opening weekend could become a major benefit for UCLA. The Bruins and Sun Devils are regarded by most as the favorites in the Pacific 10, but they don't play each other.

"We were all rooting for Washington," UCLA tackle Kris Farris said. "Definitely."

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